Thank you, Squan-a-Tissit Chapter TU and question of the day

A shout out to the Squan-a-Tissit Chapter of TU (northern MA) for virtually hosting me last night. We Zoomed and boomed and I presented The West Branch Farmington River: Southern New England’s Blue-Ribbon Trout Stream. A reminder to all the long and longer-distance fly fishing clubs out there: Zoom is great way to get acquainted. If you”re in charge of booking speakers, here’s a link to my current presentation menu.

The question of the day is certainly a fun one. I don’t think I’ve ever had this one before last night. You may find it tongue-in-cheek, but I took it seriously, and there’s a little bonus wisdom in the answer. Q: What’s your favorite fishing cigar and do you find that certain brands help you catch more fish? A: Without getting into specific brands, I like fuller bodied cigars that have a lot of taste complexity. I’m an espresso/dark chocolate/spicy/earthy flavor profile kind of guy. Now, this next bit is true. If I’m having a tough go when I’m fishing wets or streamers (or striper fishing), sometimes I’ll tuck the rod under my arm, leave the fly dangling in the water, and get out a cigar. Several times a year, I hook up when I’m lighting the cigar, doing nothing else. That’s clue #1. Clue #2 is that sometimes when you’re dealing with a riser that won’t bite, rest the fish. Take out a cigar, cut and light it — or, if you don’t partake, take couple minutes to organize your box — and then make a cast and see what happens.

It takes a rare talent to enjoy a cigar while you’re doing battle with a steelhead. OK, not really, but I do enjoy the connection between partaking and hooking up. Sometimes it seems that the cigar is the wild card that gets the bite going. I can’t explain it, but it happens an awful lot.

Farmington River Report 10/20/22: My favorite fall color is…wild brown

I guided Jon yesterday from late morning to mid-afternoon. We had abundant sunshine, the air was crisp and chilly, and we had a bit of a breeze to contend with. But by far the most challenging part was the sheer volume of leaves in the water. It was never-ending. Still, the trout have to eat. The trick is to keep at it, and I like to use flies that offer some contrast to all the yellow and orange and red in the water. We fished four marks in the lower river, which was running about 225cfs, a very respectable height, and far better than the double-digit CFSs we’ve had to suffer though in the Permanent TMA.

So: Jon is a beginning fly angler. We spent the session drop-shot nymphing under an indicator. Jon did a great job sticking with it despite all the infernal flora. And what do you know? The indicator dipped, the hook was set, the battle won, and…Jon’s first Farmington River trout was wild brown! Way to go, Jon!

Sparse spotting, lovely halos, perfect rays on the fins, no edge damage to the fins, intact adipose — and a stubborn unwillingness to come to net — all hallmarks of a stream-born wild brown. It was especially gratifying to find this fish in an area of the river that got torched this summer. Nature finds a way (again). A tremendous first Farmington River trout for Jon.

One month away! International Fly Tying Symposium tying class and seminars

Steve Culton will be making his first appearance at the 2022 International Fly Tying Symposium, November 12-13 in Somerset, NJ. (I know, sounds like a press release, but this kind of is.) In case you haven’t visited, and are looking for more information, the Symposium site is live. There was a glitch yesterday in the class registration link; that has been fixed. So, if you want to attend my class, Tying Soft Hackles, Winged and Wingless Wets, Saturday Nov 12 from 1pm-3:30pm, you can register here.

I’m currently working on two new seminars that will debut at the Symposium. The first, on Saturday at 10:30, is Tying and Fishing Wet Flies. This will cover some basic wet fly construction, theory, and how to present and fish wet flies — and you’ll also get to see some of my favorite patterns. On Sunday at 11am, it’s Beyond Cast and Strip: Presentation Flies for Stripers. I’ll be covering fly design, use of natural materials, sparseness in design, and — drum roll — presentations other than cast and strip. If you want to attend either or both, you just show up, and I’m hoping for a good turnout from currentseams followers. And of course, I’ll be at a tying table when I’m not teaching and presenting.

If you’re just casting and stripping, a spinning rod is a much better tool for that job. Find out why I tie striper flies the way I do, the secret ingredient in all my patterns, and how to present them — at this year’s International Fly Tying Symposium.

Long Island Fly Rodders awarded Legion of Grilled Keilbasa with Cheeseburger Clusters

You gotta hand it to the Long Island Fly Rodders. This club knows how to have a cookout (even in the rain) and how to make a guest speaker feel right at home. So: a very big thank you! Last night, I presented — after dining, of course, a fed presenter being a happy presenter — Wet Flies 101 to very enthusiastic group of over 50 people. There were so many great follow-up questions, it’s hard to pick one out, but I’ll try to get to some of them later this week. In the meantime, thanks again, and see you next time.

First, they feed you (thanks Mr. Grillmeister!)…
…then they gift you some nifty pint glasses. Wow! Thanks again.

“Wet Flies 101” at LIFR tonight and some much needed rain!

A reminder that I’m speaking tonight, Tuesday, September 6, at the Long Island Flyrodders in Levitttown, NY. Despite what the website says, I go on at 7:30pm, with the group’s social festivities/casting lessons beginning at 6:30. Meetings are held at the Levittown VFW, 55 Hickory Lane. The group tells me that all are welcome. My subject is “Wet Flies 101” which is a gateway to wet flies, soft hackles, and how to fish them. You too, can become a skilled practitioner of this deadly art. Hope to see you there, and as always, please come say hello.

It’s about time! Despite these totals, many of the larger rivers are still below where they should be this time of year, although I expect that to change. It’s tough getting all this at once, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Kicking off the 2022 Fly Fishing Speaking Season

Happy Monday to all. It’s hard to believe that Labor Day Weekend is nearly upon us, but that’s a fact. I’ve got stripers on my brain, an itch I’m looking forward to scratching in the next few months…plus trout…and steelhead…and can we please get some meaningful rain?

Fall also means this road warrior will be out and about, hopefully at a club or event near you! My first gig will be next Tuesday, September 6, at the Long Island Flyrodders in Levitttown, NY. Despite what the website says, I go on at 7:30pm, with the group’s social festivities/casting lessons beginning at 6:30. Meetings are held at the Levittown VFW, 55 Hickory Lane. The group tells me that all are welcome. My subject is “Wet Flies 101” which is a gateway to wet flies, soft hackles, and how to fish them. You too, can become a skilled practitioner of this deadly art. Hope to see you there, and as always, please come say hello.

So simple, just like a trout’s brain. Wet flies like these soft hackles have been catching trout for hundreds of years, and the fish aren’t getting any smarter. Come learn more at “Wet Flies 101” next week at the LIFR meeting.

Breaking News: Thermal Refuge Restrictions for the Farmington

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Farmington River is so low, and the weather so hot, that the DEEP has announced thermal refuge areas that are closed to fishing. My opening reference was to a similar decree in the summer of 2016. The difference this year is that the water coming out of the dam is significantly colder.

This would be the good news.

Rather than parrot the temporary regs, here’s a link to the DEEP site that will tell you everything you need to know. The decree goes into effect today, Saturday August 6. As always, I urge you to carry a thermometer, don’t fish if the water is above 68, stick to the upper end of the river, and fish early or late.

Farmington River Report 7/26/22: Low, cold, getting going at dusk

I guided Matt and his son John yesterday afternoon from 3:15-7:15. We started off nymphing in the PTMA. Water was 115cfs, a tad low for my liking, but plenty cold! Matt went tight line and John fished under an indicator, both drop shot. The fish, however, weren’t very cooperative, so we moved to another mark. Here we found some smaller fish, smutting. Whatever they were eating, we failed to duplicate the process. We held council and decided to try our luck at the evening rise.

The mark I wanted to fish was on lockdown, so we headed to Plan B Spot which we had to ourselves. The pool was dead as Julius Caesar, but summer evenings on the Farmington being what they are, I knew it wouldn’t be long before the natives got restless. To make a long story short: we had a modest hatch. Midges, sulphurs, caddis, but mostly attenuata. Attenuata can be a very frustrating hatch to fish — the rise-to-hook-stick ratio can be maddening — but we kept at it and had a blast fooling trout. I stuck around after the session and fished until dark. I rose a good two dozen trout, but had only one partial hookset. (Sigh.) The spinner fall was not that great, and we called at dark.

We like tight lines. So, like father…
…like son. We a treat to be able to guide two enthusiastic anglers. We got to cover nymphing and dry fly basics, plus a little bit of wet fly for good measure. Excellent job, Matt and John, in some very technically difficult conditions. Dry fly tip of the week: longer leaders make for better drifts. Think a minimum of 13 feet, and you don’t need to go below 6x.

Up…down…what’s with these Farmington River flows?

It’s a fair question, and unless you’re in the know (and sometimes even if you are) it can be confusing. The current situation is that the bottom release flow was increased over the weekend…and now it’s back down. Here’s a good explanation from our friends at UpCountry: “The MDC just emailed us, the CT DEEP is providing another 25cfs from their bank of water, which means the dam release went up by another 25cfs (they were already adding an additional 25cfs to the minimum flow that MDC has been running this Summer, so now they are adding a total of 50cfs). They were releasing 96cfs (was reading 113cfs at the USGS gauge)- this morning, this increase brings the dam release up to 121cfs, and by the time it hits the Riverton gauge (about 2-2.5 miles downstream) it will read closer to 140cfs, and with about 20cfs additional water coming in from the Still River the total flow below that will be around 160cfs, putting us closer to a normal late August level (200+ cfs) this weekend. This flow bump is being done to help lower the water temps- predicted highs this weekend of 94 for Saturday, low of 72 Saturday night, 96 high for Sunday, and a low of 77 Sunday night- the heat wave breaks on Monday/Tuesday. A big kudos to the DEEP for taking this action, it will keep the entire river cooler, and especially help the downstream trout in Canton, Collinville, Unionville & below make it through this hot weather. I suspect the DEEP will drop their 50cfs contribution down to 25cfs sometime soon after the weekend, as they don’t have a very big “bank” of water to use.”

That was posted before this most recent weekend. The dam flow on Monday noon is 122cfs and the release temperature is under 50 degrees, which is fantastic. Hopefully we’ll get some rain today, which will raise the Still River (currently under 20cfs) and temporarily add some water to the system.

Please, sir, may I have some more?

Heat wave Farmington River flows, or: Stratification and proximity are your friends

The bad news is, we’re in a disgusting heat wave. The good news it, we have some very cold water coming out of Hogback. Let’s start with this graph:

As you can see, the current release temps range from a morning low of around 47 degrees, and spike at around 56 in the afternoon. This is fantastic, and very fish friendly. But wait: that doesn’t mean all is well in Collinsville. With flows on the low side — just barely into three-figures of CFS — and air temperatures in the 90s, it doesn’t take long for that water to warm up.

So: use common sense. The closer you are to Hogback, the colder the water will be. The water will be warmest from noon into evening. Carry a thermometer, and use it. If you start getting readings approaching 68 degrees, don’t fish. Head north, or fish when the sun’s not beating down on the water.

I thank you. The trout thank you. Now, let’s all do a rain dance…